Thoughts

Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Thursday, December 19, 2013

All Over



Well it’s over.  Time to dismantle old Blue in order to power wash all of the dirt and grit out of the inside her aluminum tubing.  I gotta get my business up and running, finish that kitchen remodel, complete my half-done deck, grout the shower at the cabin, put finish on the windows that were installed last March, refinish that rocking chair, build a greenhouse – whoa better stop there before I become completely demoralized.

Here in Seattle we are lucky enough to have two thriving cyclocross series’: SCX and MFG.  I raced every MFG race and did well enough to land a front row call-up in all but the kick-off race.  My SCX attendance was a bit more spotty: I chose to miss a few races in order to avoid burnout.  The SCX series ended this past weekend at the fairgrounds in Enumclaw.
Quintessential is a cool word.  It means the pure and essential essence of something.  Enumclaw really was the quintessential Northwest cyclocross race, and not just because a guy named Quinn won the overall Masters 45+ Cat 4 SCX series championship.  Wick and the SCX guys really laid out a beautiful course (they needed a bit of redemption after the Tall Chief debacle) including mud, grabby grass, a tape maze, a series of three off-camber chicanes, a soul crushing run-up, a little single track descent, a long, but ridable, mud bog, three slightly too high Blue Rooster barriers, some pavement for passing and a sandy ride through a horse arena.  All of this was raced in fifty degree dry weather.  At the end of the race I was covered in just the right amount of mud: not enough to rip off my rear derailleur, but enough to know that I’d just raced cyclocross.

Since I’ve missed three SCX races I didn’t get a call up, but I managed to squeeze into the inside lane of the third row.  I must admit to liking the third row.  Up front you feel a lot of pressure from the row two guys.  The fellas directly behind you, literally breathing down your neck, are all serious, experienced racers and they are hungry, they want to get up there, so a bobble or a missed clip can result in losing five, six, even seven spots.  Starting third row, on the other hand, reverses the roles, now I’m the hungry one pushing past all of the wobbly guys.

I had a great start and passed half a dozen riders before the first turn.  On the second turn I was in a lot of traffic and really big guy leaned on me – he was on the inside of the turn, I was on the outside.  It’s nice to race with good riders because good riders know that when two guys lean on each other it’s best to just keep leaning until you get out of the mess, and then separate.  Fortunately the big guy was good and we went shoulder-to-shoulder through the turn.  It’s fun to dodge a bullet.

The run-up at Enumclaw has a well-deserved big reputation.  It’s a killer, no matter how strong you are.  This is where I lost the top five guys.  I just couldn’t get my butt up that hill fast enough.  On the other hand many of the guys who high-stepped it up the incline were left gasping at the top, and I easily passed them once back on the bike.
It was a three lap race and thanks to a super good warm-up I never really felt the heart attack sensation that usually plagues my first lap.  I got stronger as the race progressed, but unfortunately so did my competition.  I figured that I’d have to work hard and ride aggressive in order to finish top ten, as I was somewhere in that number eight to twelve never never land.  In the end I pushed past a couple of guys and ended up ninth.  I finished feeling great and totally exhilarated, it was a great day.

Next year I’m getting me one of those mint green RockLobster bikes.  Damn I love those.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Lance Thing


This Lance Armstrong thing is, for me, like finding out that you’ve been living next door to a serial killer: the partial-confession is bad enough, but to make matters worse they keep digging bodies out of the crawlspace, and worst of all, I can’t help but peek over the fence.

Yes I did shell out thirty bucks for the hardcover version of Wheelmen – Lance Armstrong, The Tour De France And The Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever, and yes I will go see The Armstrong Lie, as soon as it hits theaters here in Seattle on Nov 27th.  I just can’t help myself.

If you could go back in time to the nineties and walk into a bike shop what you’d see would be a whole bunch of mountain bikes a couple of cruiser bikes and maybe, somewhere in the back, a racing bike.  Despite Greg Lemond, bicycle racing, and bicycling in general, here in the U.S. was obscure at best pre-Lance (all you have to do is say “Lance” and everyone knows who you are talking about – kind of like “Arnold” now that is fame); what that guy did for the cycling industry here in the States is unparalleled and undeniable.   The damage that to the sport doesn’t nearly equal the benefits.

Wait a minute, it sounds like I’m defending this asshole.  No I’m definitely not on Team Lance.

I guess I was a bit naive when it came to Lance, I figured that sure in his early days, maybe even the first two years he was doping, but after a few victories my thoughts were that cost of getting caught (i.e. losing his titles) would vastly outweigh the benefit (i.e. another win).  In 1999, 2000, even 2001 there is no way that Lance, or anyone on Team Lance, could have thought that he would win seven Tours, no way no how.  To risk losing all the success that he already had in pursuit of something unimaginable, that just didn’t make any sense.

And how could anyone lie like that.  It’s one thing to lie, it’s quite another to bankrupt and destroy the livelihoods of anyone who even remotely didn’t dance to your tune.  I mean that’s crazy – it just didn’t make any sense.

So when he came blubbering to Oprah (there’s another one name famer) I was honestly a bit surprised.  I’m sure a lot of folks would say that you had to be stupid or intentionally na├»ve not to see it coming, and I guess that’s fair.  I suppose I wanted to believe that it was impossible to be that big of a jerk.  Now with every page I turn in Wheelmen, I discover new depths of jerkhood.

Friday, November 8, 2013

One More Dig


I was watching Behind the Barriers the other day and at the end of the episode Jeremy Powers (AKA J-Pow) was being worked on by a physical therapist/chiropractor.  The two guys got to talking about what it takes to win at cyclocross and the PT mentioned something that really hit home with me.  He referred to “one more dig,’ that the guy/gal who won was the typically the person who had “one more dig” than the competition.

Cyclocross is different than your typical American ball sports in that in order to have any success at all you have to operate at beyond what you might have previously thought was possible.  Cyclocross races typically last from between thirty to sixty minutes and during that entire time you have to be operating at maximum possible output, and at several times during the race you’ll have go past what you thought was possible – you have to dig.  It’s the guy/gal who can dig just that one more time, the person who can accelerate out of that last turn just a few seconds faster, generate just a few more watts than the competition, who wins.

I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Americans have never experienced what cyclocross racers consider routine.  Perhaps that’s why I love this sport so much: it makes the seemingly impossible possible, and when that happens you come out the other side a stronger (read better) person.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Being Free


I opened up my Seattle Times this morning to see a two inch headline stating:

Police speed trap

snaring bicyclists, too

Immediately I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising.
Before I go any further I should state that I’m a rule following nut, furthermore I view myself as an ambassador of bicycling.  My goal, and the goal of my company – Greenlite Heavy Industries – is to promote cycling and you ain’t gonna do that by pissing folks off.
Now for the other side of the coin.  Bicycling for me is a passion, but my passion isn’t about turning pedals, instead my passion is all about being a free man.  The bicycle is a means to an end. 

The American adult – despite vociferous clams to the contrary – is being squeezed into a continually shrinking box.  People can’t pay for the cars they drive so they borrow from bankers, they can’t fix those cars (even when they are not really broken) so they pay mechanics, they have to put gasoline into those cars so they look the other way when faced with the realities of the oil extraction business, they are anxious from traffic and in poor health due to a sedentary lifestyle, so they pay pharmaceutical companies to make it all better.  When you are at the mercy of bankers, mechanics, big oil and big pharma you’re pretty darn far from a free man. 

In my life the automobile is necessary, I don’t deny that, but I see it as a necessary evil, to be avoided when possible.

A guy on a bike most likely isn’t contributing to the underwater financial situation of most American households, he isn’t contributing to air pollution and climate change, he isn’t putting money into the pockets of oil companies, he isn’t contributing to traffic congestion, he isn’t damaging the roads, and, more than likely, he isn’t downing jar fulls of prescription drugs to combat the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle.  On the other hand, he is sweating, he is getting wet, he is feeling the cold.  I say give him the benefit of a doubt.  (Note that I use “he” in the gender neutral sense –writing he/she every time makes for awkward writing).

I don’t believe that cyclists should have free reign to ride in a dangerous or inconsiderate fashion, but bicycles are not automobiles and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Consider a spectrum wherein walking is on the left end and driving an automobile is on the right; I would place cycling very far to the left.  A cyclist, like a pedestrian, is very in tune with the surrounding environment (head phones should never be worn while riding), whereas the driver of an automobile is quite removed from his/her surroundings.  A cyclist can see, hear and even smell what’s going on around them, which I believe gives the rider some leeway.  For example when I approach the four-way stop near my house I can easily look and listen for opposing traffic, if it is clear I’ll roll through without coming to a complete, one foot on the ground stop.  When I’m in a car I can’t really see or hear what’s going on at that intersection, so coming to a complete stop, assessing the situation and then proceeding seems reasonable.  In other words we don’t expect pedestrians to make a complete stop at a stop sign, nor should we expect it of cyclists.
When I see headlines stating that bicyclists, many of whom don’t have a speedometer, are being pulled over and given a $103 fine for exceeding a 20 mph speed limit in a downhill zone I can’t help but feel a bit angry as this type of action only serves to impede cycling, instead of doing what we should be doing: promoting it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Little Harder

Peter Clancy from Woodinville Cycle comes out every week to shoot the cyclocross races, I always look forward to Monday morning when I can look at what he put in the can.  Usually there is an image that keeps me in line when I start wondering if maybe I should have pushed a little harder, dug a little deeper.  I think this shot shows that I was maxed out.
That's all there is and there ain't no more.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Be Tough

I read a good article today:

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/10/03/you-may-be-strong-but-are-you-tough/

The one concept that I really liked was to create little obstacles for yourself while going through the motions of daily life: walk instead of drive, run instead of walk.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Do forty push-ups while watching TV.  Go barefoot.  The easy way is the soft way.

I find this MovNat stuff interesting.  May be worth checking out.  Go climb a tree.

Monday, October 14, 2013

17 The Hard Way

 
“What’s the difference between a golf course and a cow pasture?  Six months…evidently.”

                                                                                    -David Queen

 




Never has this one suffered so much for so little.  Seattle area cyclocross racers ventured out to the Snoqualmie Valley to compete in the SCX race at the now defunct Tall Chief Golf Course.  I expected mushy conditions as the old golf course sits atop spongy bottomland, but I didn’t expect the grassy, clay-like crud that locked up nearly every moving part of my bicycle.
 

We Cat 4 Masters only had to endure three laps, thank God, no way could I have made four without stopping to clear out the brakes and drivetrain.  The mud was especially sticky, but I think it was the freshly mown grass that really gave the concoction its wheel stopping power.

Normally my modus operandi when it comes to mud and sand is to ride as much as possible, not that pushing the pedals is necessarily always faster than running, but I do think that it leaves me less wasted when I finally exit the beach/bog.  My trusty new Challenge Limus tires helped me to crank through nearly every mud section, but I was definitely slower than the runners and I think pushing through the mud added to the amount of tire stopping goo that I managed to pick up.  In hindsight I should have swallowed my pride, ignored all the spectators egging me on to continue riding and shouldered my bike at the start of the mud sections.

I’m a bit disappointed with seventh place but I’m confident in saying that’s as good as I could have done.  I gave it everything that I had – and came up short.

More thoughts on the race can be found at: www.bikehugger.com
Look for Peter's photos at: http://woodinvillebicycle.smugmug.com/SmugPreview
 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dead End



Sam and I went down to McCall Hall last night to watch the new movie chronicling the life of skier/BASE jumper Shane McConkey.  The movie is aptly named McConkey.  First of all I was shocked to see that the hall was packed to the rafters for what I would consider a fairly obscure movie.  Secondly I wasn't prepared for the rave-like scene, I guess I'm an old fogey.

Whenever the subject of extreme skiing comes up I can't help but think back to the old Burt Reynolds/Jan Michael Vincent movie Hooper wherein Burt is celebrating his world record jump from a helicopter when he looks up to see JMV leaping from a helicopter even higher: you're only as good as your last trick.  Pushing your limits for personal reasons is cool, pushing your limits for money usually ends up with someone pushing your casket.

McConkey was jumping off of insanely low objects and pulling releasing the chute lower and lower, he was on a road, and that road led to a dead end, literally.  The guy had a lust for life was inspiring, but I'll take a pass on the low pulls.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Churning

Matt and Chad churning up the sand at the MFG Silver Lake cyclocross race this past weekend.


 The sand was loose and deep, but ridable. Here Paul shows the proper high speed float technique


Cyclocross races typically start with a straight all out sprint, the guy who leads going into the first technical section is said to have gotten the "hole shot."  Here Mark and Matt battle for the hole shot.


Dennis Crane of DBC photo got some good images, I like this shot as I don't have my typical "I'm in excruciating pain" grimace.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rain Rain

Winter has arrived here in the great Northwest, and with the rains comes cyclocross mud.  I can't imagine what casual visitors to Sammamish State Park yesterday thought of a bunch of nuts riding through a mile long mud bog, but for those of us that were shoe deep, it was just another day of cyclocross.

The Sammamish course was flat and fast with plenty of opportunities to pass slower riders.  In other words, it was a no excuses kind of race: if you had the lungs and the legs you could definitely finish well.  As for myself I finished up 10th, not bad but I'd like to be up a little higher.  The truth is that I was beaten fair and square by nine other riders who are just stronger than I am - at the moment.  Time to work a little harder.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Smiling Faces

Why are these guys smiling?


a. They just finished a cross race
b. They all have a beer in their hands
c. They're watching J-Pow duke it out with Ryan TreeFarm
d. All of the above

Just like I tell my daughter: if you have an "all of the above option" it's probably the right answer.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Starcrossed Lover


Saturday was the big event on the local cyclocross calendar – Starcrossed.  I was out at Marymore Park in Redmond from 1:00 till 9:30 and loved every minute of it.  Cyclocross
Sophia asked "why does your face look like that
racers are a bit eccentric, I think most of them walk Clark Kent style through life – normal by all outwards appearances- but get ‘em at a race and the horn-rimmed glasses come off.  There is no shortage of personality at a cross race.

I raced in the Masters 40+ event and was placed in the back row – the field was 80 and I was the tail gunner.  I must confess to being a bit disappointed as I finished 8th last weekend and thought that maybe I’d get a descent call-up.  No such luck, I don’t know how they organized the start line, perhaps it was just a blind drawing.  Anyway it be what it be and I leaned over to the guy next to me and said “well my expectations have just been lowered.”

The Starcrossed course had plenty of passing opportunities, but there just isn’t any substitute for a good starting position.  If you are able to pass 80 riders in a cross race you’d better be considering an upgrade, lest ye be called a sandbagger.

Teammates in the beer garden
The course was fast and flat, it was really fun and instead of fading I seemed to get stronger as the race went on.  I got on the wheel of my teammate Dan L and refused to let go.  Dan is a lot faster on the road than I am, so I was happy to be glued to his wheel.  I’m starting to feel a lot better about cross and am a little disappointed to be missing the first race in the SCX series this weekend, but I’ll be doing other fun things (more on that later).

Watching the pros was a real kick, Jeremy Powers and Ryan Trebon were insanely fast.  I simply can’t believe the speed at which those guys get around that course.  One thing I noticed was that they push much bigger gears than I’m able to turn; especially in the corners where I typically gear way down.  By holding onto that bigger gear they’re able to rocket out of the turns whereas I slowly ease back up to speed.  That is a leg strength, which is something that I can work on.

Ryan Trebon's Cannondale - he's 6'6"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bike Hugger Review

Byron at Bike Hugger posted a sweet review of the G1 Pant the other day.  I get a true rush whenever I read a positive blog post or get a positive review from a customer.  Greenlite ain't gonna make me a rich man; I ain't doing it for the money.  I instead started Greenlite to make a difference.  To encourage everyday cycling and to show that high end clothing can made in the U.S.  I deeply appreciate every kind word and positive vibe.
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Every Day Is A Gift


The Fit-T is available in white and gray
 
Just picked up my first run of T-shirts.  The shirts were sewn right here in Seattle by Matt down and Tarboo, and my friend, Chris M, helped me with the graphics.  They are one hundred percent heathered cotton.  Eric and Jamie down at ThisThat in West Seattle printed them up for me.  I had Matt sew them to fit an athletic physique, thin at the waist a bit wider at the shoulders and I added a ribbed cuff at the sleeve to show off the guns.

"Every Day Is A Gift" comes from a tattoo I saw on a surfer that I met a few years back. On his right forearm was written "Every Day" and on his left was "Is a Gift."  I figured that if you're going to get a tat this was a pretty good one.  Viewing every single day as a precious commodity shouldn't be relegated to those with a terminal diagnosis, because if you look at the big picture life is terminal for all of us.

I'm running them through the washing machine today, as I think it's best to sell T-shirts pre-shrunk.

I think I'll call it the Fit-T: a good fit for the fit guy.
Ribbed cuff at the sleeve

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kick-Off Cross


Pushing my way forward
Cyclocross season started up here in Seatte with the MFG kick-off race at Big Finn Hill Park yesterday.  In year’s past Big Finn has been notoriously dusty, but due to recent thundershowers (rare here in the Northwest) we had optimal, albeit a bit sloppy at the barriers conditions.

The course setters went hog wild with the tape constructing a maze of off camber grassy knoll turns and a super tight pinch point.  I expected a lot of slide-outs on the slick grass but all in all I saw relatively few racers on the ground.

Terry did a random number call-up, which was a bit of a bummer as I figured with all of the guys who upgraded last year I stood a good chance of a top five or eight call-up.  My number ends in a one and that was the second to last number called.  So being the rule follower that I am I lined up in the back and didn’t push my way forward.

I had just installed some new TRP low profile cantilever brakes the day before onto Old Blue and damn were they squealers.  I hate noise coming from my bike and this was like off the decibel charts.  I ride the brakes a lot during cross races – even while pedaling as it acts kind of like traction control – and so the squeal was fairly constant throughout the race.

We ran four laps and after the initial heartrate spike I really started to even out and felt really strong throughout the race.  On lap four I got kind of bunged up at the barriers and lost two maybe three places, but all in all I did really well ending up eighth (I don’t count the Hodala rider) in a big big field.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Boxer


While listening to Pandora yesterday Paul Simon’s The Boxer came on.  Damn that guy can write a song.  The following line seems particularly prophetic:

 Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Work


For the next round of pants I’m having my logo and the care instructions silk-screened to the inner panel of the left front pocket, and so I went down to the shop at Tarboo to cut out the pocket blanks.  Cutting certainly is an acquired skill, it took me a while to calm down and let the scissors do the work.  Next time I cut I think it’ll be a good idea to wrap my thumb in some sort of protective tape as my knuckle is still a bit sore.


Matt working the cutting table
Matt had a couple of designers working with him on another project and we all just got busy and did what we had to do.  No shooting the shit or screwing around, just a few folks working hard making money.  I love working hard – putting my head down and getting the job done – I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I put in a hard day yesterday, but it was refreshing to get a job done.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Leadville Trail 100


Years ago, I can’t remember when exactly, but it’s been a good long while, I got this bug to get me a belt buckle.  Not just any old buckle but a finishers buckle from either the Western States 100 mile trail run or the Leadville 100 Trail mountain bike race.  Chronic leg injuries put the Western States out of reach, so I set my sights on Leadville.
Though it’s possible to qualify for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB the vast majority of entrants arrive at the starting line via an open lottery.  Based on what I read on the internets I figured that it would take me at least three tries at the lottery until my number came up, so the email that arrived last February notifying me that I had been accepted into the race came as a bit of a surprise.  Beginner’s luck I guess.  My buddy Jason, who had also applied to the lottery, received a “sorry try again next year” email.  I was in.  Be careful what you wish for…
35 degrees at the start

I’ve spent the last three years bike racing, but I come from an endurance background, so I knew how to train for a long event, and, more importantly, I knew how to develop a race day nutrition and hydration plan.  I’ll put more on this in another post.

My son, Sam, and I arrived in Leadville on Thursday afternoon after driving ten hours from Park City where we’d spent three days acclimatizing to the higher altitude.  During a training ride on my first day in Park City my heart rate had skyrocketed 30 BPM over my normal maximum to 200 BPM.  Three days later I was back down to fairly normal numbers – an indication that my body was indeed acclimatizing to the lower air pressure.  Leadville is four thousand feet above Park City, but every little bit counts; we sea level folks can only do what we can do.

My wife Melony flew into Denver on Friday and shuttled up to Copper Mountain where Sam and I had already gear exploded all over our condo.

On Saturday – race day – morning I was up at three and had eaten my breakfast of oatmeal and two poached eggs by three thirty.  The drive from Copper to Leadville takes about twenty five minutes and as we climbed through the darkness the thermometer in the car kept dropping; the little green lights in the Subaru read thirty five when we parked.  I opted for a long sleeve jersey over a synthetic t-shirt, two pairs of padded shorts, knee warmers and dual socks (one wool, the other a thin racing sock).

The race is seeded: pros up front, qualifiers next, multiple finishers after them, VIP types next, and finally, all the way in the back, is the White Corral, which is reserved for first time lottery winners.  I was a whitey.

Unlike in years past, when you could arrive early and simply throw down your bike to reserve your place in the lineup, this year all riders had to stay with their bikes and no non-riders were allowed in the corral.  I arrived at five forty five – forty five minutes before the start – and ended up about twelve hundred riders back from the front line pros.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen hundred people lined up for the race. The morning dawned cold and clear, somewhere in the high thirties.  At six thirty Ken blew off the shotgun – which surprisingly I didn’t hear – and we were off.  The first three miles are downhill and many folks took off like absolute maniacs.  Riding in a pack of mountain bikers is a bit disconcerting as many lack the predictability of road racers, and so I was extremely conservative, keeping a good space cushion and letting the wingnuts fly by.  The last thing I wanted was to go down and be out of the race before even reaching the Leadville city limits.

I had been warned regarding what was about to happen, but still I wasn’t prepared.  After making the right hand turn onto gravel the pack immediately slowed down to a little bit slower than walking pace.  It was a traffic jam and the pace was now determined by the slowest forward rider.  On the one hand this was a good thing as it kept my pace in check and allowed me to ease into a long day in the saddle.  On the other hand, starting in the back probably adds thirty to sixty minutes to your finish time – unless you are able to really blast to the front during the initial three mile sprint.

Mountaineering has taught me that at high altitude it’s crucial to maintain an even keel, both mentally and physically, and since I wasn’t trying to win the race or go sub nine hours I simply geared down and went with the flow.

There were very few gapers.  With the exception of two guys who seemed to have no clue as to what they were getting themselves into, everyone that I saw at the race was fit, trim and properly equipped, in short the vast vast majority of racers that I saw were serious and seriously ready.

After a steady, albeit slow, climb over St. Kievens, we hit a wild and fast paved descent to Turquoise Lake.  It was hard to enjoy the downhill as I knew that later in the day I’d be climbing back up this thing.  Next it was up to Sugarloaf Pass – I found this portion fairly quick and easy, just a steady effort.  At the Pass we hit the rutty, rough and sweet two and a half mile Powerline descent.  We were now more than two hours into the race and the pack was spreading out.  I got in with some good riders and I followed their line through the ruts and over the bumps.  It was a good fast descent ideally suited for my Santa Cruz Tallboy.

Once down the Powerline we hit pavement, and after a couple of failed attempts I got in with a nice smooth pace line.  A big dude with an Ironman tat on his calf was pulling half a dozen riders and I figured if he wanted to pull I wanted to draft.  Some folks say that there is a lot of pavement in Leadville; well I don’t know about that, it didn’t seem like all that much to me.



Sam getting ready for a long day at Aid 1/4
There was a really sweet twisting single track descent just prior to the first aid station.  I was now able to start riding at my own pace and I began to speed up as I was eager to see Sam who was crewing Aid 1/Aid 4.  As I approached the commotion and color of Aid 1 I saw that Sam had taken up residence in the first position.  It’s so nice to have support out there on the course, it would have been an entirely different race had I gone unsupported.  Different in a bad way.

Sam was Johnny on the Spot and filled my water bottle with Skratch, topped off my Camelback with water and handed me food for the Bento Box.  I pulled off my knee warmers and Hidy ho I was off.

The route between Aid 1 and Aid 2 outbound is mostly flat or downhill on fairly well-groomed terrain, and I tried to balance throwing the hammer down with holding back in prep for the Columbine Mine climb.  I was paranoid about the four hour cutoff – always worried about that possible mechanical – so I rode maybe a little harder than I should have.

I came through the forty mile checkpoint (you have to be there in four hours) with plenty of time to spare.  Aid 2 (Twin Lakes) was jammed with crews and spectators, it looked like the Alp d’Huez, and I scanned the crowd for Melony.  She spotted me first – my all red helmet was fairly distinctive – and jumped out to stop me.  As it was cool I wasn’t taking on too much liquid and so all she had to do was top off my Skratch bottle while I popped a few Salt Stick capsules.  Okay here comes the big Kahuna – the ten mile ascent to the Columbine Mine.

I pulled out of Aid 2 and was nearly run down by the dude on the big KTM who was leading out the three race leaders.  Talk about flying – the lead rider, I think it was Todd Wells, popped a big rock and caught about six feet of air as he passed by.

At Aid 2 - 40 miles in
Right out of Aid 2 the climb is steep, and so I geared down and got ready for the big push.  Much to my surprise the grade went to horizontal for about a mile and then it was up up up.  The lower two thirds of the climb is on a moderate grade drivable road, and it was just a matter of finding that right gear and turning the pedals.  I wasn’t too obsessed about my heart rate but I did try to keep it under 140 BPM as I didn’t want to gas out up high.

Now the downhill guys – and a few gals – were really coming by.  This is the only place on the course where there is two way traffic.  I wonder if there were any face to face crashes as some of the downhill people were really taking risks and swinging way wide into the uphill zone.  It really didn’t make a lot of sense to be a mad bomber on the downhills: Melony did a cool data reduction on the past year’s results and the difference between the fastest riders and the middle of the road guys on the Columbine descent was only about seven or eight minutes.

The Columbine climb certainly lived up to its reputation as a soul crusher.  I’m sure it made many of those with a religious bent question the existence of a merciful God.  The real killer was the final two miles, which is above treeline.  The road ends about three miles shy of the summit where the route becomes a rocky jeep trail barely wide enough for the now nearly constant two way traffic.  After about a mile of pedaling I hit the long line of walkers.  You simply have to walk at this point as there isn’t room to get around the tire to tire line of folks pushing their bikes.  Walking here was actually a good thing as it kept me from blowing up in the high altitude.  Finally the trail eased up a bit and I was able to get on the bike and ride into the fifty mile aid station, where I stopped long enough to eat a piece of watermelon and inhale a bit of ramen.  All of my fretting about getting caught up high in an afternoon thunderstorm turned out to be wasted energy as the sky was nearly clear and the temperatures cool but not cold.

The descent was awesome.  I had vowed to take it easy but the Tallboy was eating up the bumps and I opened it up a little more than planned.  Soon I was back into the Twin Lakes Aid Station (Aid 3) where I replenished my Skratch supply, took a few salt tablets, two Alieve (for a moderate altitude-induced headache) a couple drinks of cold coke and was off to see Sam at Aid 4.  Just as I was getting up to speed and riding one-handed as I shoved a rice ball into my mouth a three-year old girl wandered into my path; I threw on the front brake and nearly went over the handlebars.  No harm no foul but that sent my heart rate through the roof.

Now I realized why I’d made such good time from Aid 1 to Aid 2 as it was mostly downhill.  Now I was making the reverse trip up the gradual, but continual, slope.  I was feeling good and was starting to pass riders who were showing signs of bonking.  I wasn’t eating or drinking as much as planned, but I seemed to have plenty of energy and no cramps; basically I was happy to be where I was doing what I was doing.  That Tallboy is a great bike, I had the suspension locked out for most of the ride between Aid 3 and Aid 4 and it just ate up the trail.

A long, straight, rutted, ancient road lead into Aid 4 where Sam was patiently waiting for me.  I still had plenty of food and water so I just filled my Skratch bottle, drank a bit of Coke, ate half a Snickers and took off.  Once again I have to say how wonderful it is to see a friendly face, even better a family face, out there on the course.  Sam is fifteen and certainly I hope that he remembers his old man beating the shit out of himself out there in the Colorado mountains in search of a silver belt buckle.

Melony had parked at the start of the road section and snapped a few photos as I came by.  Out on the road the cross winds were vicious and I joined up with two other guys in an effort to put together a paceline.  Nothing doing.  We’d reel guys in, I’d say “get on the back” but invariably they’d just drop off.  We three worked the best that we could, but had we gotten together a functioning paceline we could have all knocked five to ten minutes off of our times.  Many of the riders were now visibly hurting, thankfully I was feeling all right.

The lower portion of the Powerline – the first quarter mile or so – is just too steep and rutted to ride.  I guess Lance Armstrong rode it – EPO does wonders I guess – but not me.  Even pushing a bike up that hill is exhausting, but by putting one foot in front of the other I managed to crest the steep stuff and jump back on the Tallboy.  I still had another two and a half miles of steep rutted climbing in front of me.  I started out with a group of four and we wove our way through the walkers grinding low gears and keeping weight on the back tire.  I figured I’d go until my legs gave out, but every time I asked for more my legs just kept pushing the pedals.  Up up we went.  Two of the original four dropped off and finally it was just me and a tall guy with a mustache, that dude could spin and I just kept on his wheel.  Honestly we weren’t going a whole lot faster than the walkers, but I’d come to ride so that’s what I did.  After three false summits I hit Sugarloaf Pass and started a long descent into a valley.  It was hard to enjoy the descent as I knew that I still had to climb back out.

The final climb follows a steep paved road, and is maybe four or five miles long.  My stomach was feeling a bit queasy and I figured that I’d go only with water from here on out – finish on fumes.  Once again I figured I’d simply push my legs as far as they would go and then deal with the misery when they popped, but there was no popping, I simply rode up the hill at a steady pace picking of riders one by one.

Finally I made it to the Carter’s Summit mini aid station, a lot of riders were gathered around the goodie table, but I just rode on past, my Garmin was reading 90 miles and knew that a nice descent took me back into Leadville.

Now here I have to say that I’d been warned that the Leadville 100 is really the Leadville 104, but I couldn’t help counting down those final ten miles to one hundred.  When the odometer clicked into triple digits I was feeling fine, but unfortunately Leadville was nowhere in sight.  Worse yet the trail was starting up a steep incline.  The mind is a powerful thing and I had set my mind to one hundred miles, not one hundred and one not one hundred and four, but one hundred.  I was starting to fade.

At the finish line
Now a lot of people would say “one hundred, one hundred and four what’s the difference,” well I’m here to say that there is a big difference, especially when those last four are uphill and you’re down to five or six miles an hour.  At one hundred and three there was still no sign of town.  I turned to a rider next to me and said “this is just plain cruel.”  He nodded.  Finally we hit the middle school which marks the beginning of the final climb to the finish.  At the crest of the hill I claimed my position with the nearby riders: I wasn’t going to go zooming past the guys in front, but neither was I going to allow someone to do some kind of finish line sprint on me either. When we hit the red carpet I backed off the tatted up guy in front of me so that he could get a solo finish line photo – I wish that the guy behind me would have done the same.

I finished in under eleven hours, which was my goal.  Those final four miles were tough, but I’d never really cramped or pooped out, I simply kept turning those pedals until I hit the red carpet.  Leadville reminds me of that old adage of how do you eat an elephant - one bite at a time.  This is how I approached the race; I took care of the challenge that was in front of me, I didn’t think about the miles and the climbs ahead, I simply turned the pedals until I reached the top.

Leadville was a well-organized race that took me through some awesome landscapes, but the best thing about the experience was the other riders.  Everyone I encountered was cool, supportive and encouraging.  Don’t get me wrong everyone was out there racing, they were fit, well-prepared and ready to go, but they also seemed to recognize that they were part of something big, something bigger than a mere mountain bike race, and even though oftentimes I was riding by myself I never felt alone.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Road to Leadville Part Deux


Had a relaxing day in Park City yesterday.  Woke up feeling kind of hazy, it seemed as though life was happening all around me, but that somehow I was removed from the action.  A dream state that I attribute partly to nerves, partly to altitude and mostly to too much caffeine.  Happily I faded into reality after a good lunch of buffalo chili.

As it has been with all of my past challenges I’m feeling pre-event anxiety: a mix of “I’m glad it’s not tomorrow” blended with “let’s get this thing over with.”  I like this anxiety, I thrive on it.  It makes me feel alive.  I’m not simply sleepwalking through life.  It’s not “where did all the years go,” instead it’s “I’ve put those years to good use.”

I’m happy that I’m slowing working through problems.  I added Ergon grips to my bike before
New grips
leaving Seattle, I think these are going to go a long way towards avoiding numb hands, and the bar ends will give me some much needed variety with respect to hand position.  I pulled the 90mm stem off the other day and added a 110.  This should pull me a bit forward on the saddle, which, theoretically, should reduce the load on my sore butt cheeks.  Finally, before a short ride yesterday, I borrowed Sam’s new padded bike short liners.  They are a 26 inch waist but thanks to Spandex I was able to wiggle into them.  The double padding did wonders for my rear, so today I’ll have to head to the Pearl Izumi outlet store to get myself a pair for the race.  So in short my plan is to wear two pairs of bike shorts on Saturday.

On the eve of these big races it’s easy to start questioning yourself: I should have trained more, I should have ate better, I should have lost that last five pounds, I should have invested in that high altitude simulator, but honestly man I’m fit, I’m lightweight, I’m strong, I’m healthy, I have an exquisite ride, my support crew is top notch, my nutrition plan is dialed - in short I’m ready.  You could always do more, but in my case I’ve done more than enough training.  I’m looking forward to the drive to Leadville tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Two Bills

Rolling through an aspen grove

Hello from Park City, Utah.  Sam and I drove here on Sunday; it was an uneventful fifteen hour slog. 

Yesterday I started my acclimatization.  After a ten mile warm-up around town with Sam I headed up to the Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) armed with a sweet mountaintrails.org map.  I found a nice wooded switch-backy trail called Spiro and followed that to Powerline past Comstock Mine and up to Shadow Lake.  All said and done I did 3500’ of climbing. 
 

I felt strong on the uphill and I was consciously taking it easy, but my heart rate was off the charts – I topped out at 200 BPM.  In Seattle, at sea level, I’d be hard pressed to approach 170 BPM, that’s full on heart attack off the front of a crit numbers.  A heart rate of two bills, I’ve never seen that before.  I only went a little over 30 miles and even though I was taking it slow I really felt the effort last night.  Today I have to back way off, just an easy cruise for me.
Comstock Mine

The trails here are so easy and so accessible.  I am definitely jealous.  There is well over a hundred miles of sweet cross country riding right here from my friend’s front door.

My two concerns for Leadville are the altitude and my sore butt.  I haven’t had a problem with a sore backside for like thirty years but now my ass is really bruised and tender.  Stuff like that makes for a long day.  I put a longer stem on my bike last night in hopes of bringing me further forward on the saddle.  We’ll see how that works today.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Either Up or Down

Saturday I spent five hours exploring the fire roads east of our cabin at Snoqualmie Pass.  I basically did a loop that skirted the edges of Lake Kachess and Lake Keechelus.  The day was beautiful and I was able to get in nearly 5K of climbing.  Not much compared to what I have in store for a week from Saturday (Leadville).

Leadville has me fairly uptight, but I'll save that for another post.

I'm a city boy through and through, no sense in hiding that, but it's in the mountains where I find solace.  Climbing these steep seldom used fire roads can yield a kind of Zen-like experience: relax, find the rhythm, enjoy the beating of your heart, the sweat, the peace of mind.

I'm going to have to figure out a way to better tell these stories through photos.  Somehow stuff like this just doesn't do the scene justice.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sign Of The Times





Making sparks
Sam and I have been working on a sign for my friend’s juice shop – Juju Beet – over in Bellevue.  We started with a big slab of redwood that I had sitting around, framed it in steel, finished it with multiple coats of marine grade epoxy and finally attached acrylic letters that my friend had cut out via his laser cutter.  The big letters are attached with wood screws, which I offset with quarter inch spacers to create a nice shadow line.  The small letters were attached with epoxy.

Last night was hanging time.


Sam putting on the final touches
The biggest challenge was drilling the eight half inch diameter attachment holes through C-channels in the existing awning.  Luckily the awing is constructed of aluminum, unfortunately the tapered flanges were nearly three quarters of an inch thick at the hole location.  A lot of overhead work with the Hole Hawg set at minimum speed.  Fortunately I escaped with no metal in my eyes.

We worked at night in order to minimize sidewalk traffic, and didn’t finish until eleven.  I’m looking forward to seeing the sign in full daylight and will head over today to get some photos.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cross Epic


A 25 mph gravel train


Last Thursday I broke my self-imposed rule of no more road racing until after Leadville (in order to minimize the risk of pre-Lead injury) by scrambling off to Seward Park to race in the weekly throw down.  The race was crowded and fast, as the normally informal event had been converted into a full-on legit contest complete with announcers, an official start/finish line, a beer garden and even a giant screen onto which, after dark, the day’s double ascent of Alp d’Huez was going to be projected to the Tejay chanting masses.  After a race and a straight to my head beer Chad and I were cruising too fast up Lake Washington Blvd when he asked if I was doing the Cross Epic.

I’d never heard of the Cross Epic.

Thirty six hours later I was in the parking lot of Motofish Studios in Redmond straddling a cross bike coated in November dust about to embark on a 52 mile cyclocross race.  Oh yeah I’d also forgot my glasses and repair kit.

At 7:30 we were off for a fairly caz rollout to what the Motofish dudes called the Tuscany Loop, and within a few minutes I was questioning my theory of being able to both ride 50 off road miles and picking up my wife at the airport at 10:30.  I pulled out my phone and made a quick rolling text - “might be a little late.”  Everything was friendly until the Loop, at that point the gloves came off.

We were on some great trails and the pace was hot, a few rabbits were gone but Chad, myself and another teammate, Trevor – on his single speed Nature Boy - hung tight with the second group.  The pace was blistering, you really couldn’t give an inch or you’d be out the back.  Chad ended up double flatting, so by the time we started the descent into Snoqualmie Valley it was just Trevor and myself wearing the red and black.
Carnation aid station

The brakes on old Blue ain’t what they used to be, so I was grabbing a handful as we dropped into the Valley, good thing too as one of the rabbits had hit a bump and broken his carbon steer tube.  The guy was tough, but you could tell he was in pain, we all stopped to see what we could do, which was not much.  It’s times like these when I wish I would have switched majors and gotten that medical degree – I could have shouted “stand back I’m a doctor.”

We hit the Snoqualmie Valley trail with a vengeance, we were a 25 mile per hour train dusting all dog walkers and shirtless joggers in our path.  It isn’t often that one gets to rail like that on a cross bike.  Hats off to the other trail users: nobody complained and we even had a few cheers.

In Carnation we stopped by an aid station set up by the wife and kids of one of the Motofish guys.  They had those mini cans of Coke on ice, I couldn’t resist.
A classic case of Helmet Hair

From Carnation it was up up up to Joy Lake.  Damn what a climb.  We dropped back into the Valley and on a short section of tarmac a strong guy from Audi went down and started rolling towards the centerline as a Dodge Diesel roared towards him in the opposite lane.  Luckily he stopped the rolling, but man I saw his life flash before my eyes.

 What followed had to be one of the top three steepest climbs of my life.  From there we hit the Pipeline trail and tore like hell back to the Motofish Studios.  I don’t think that my legs had ever felt so strong, it seemed like there was no bottom to the well.  I kept asking more of my legs and they kept delivering the goods; definitely a good confidence builder now that I’m within three weeks of Leadville.

I pulled into the start/finish parking lot tired, dirty and happy.  Melony ended up taking a taxi from the airport.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Luck

I have to admit to being a dang lucky guy.  Thomas Jefferson once said “I’m a big believer in luck, the harder I work the luckier I get.”  I agree with this – to a certain extent.  I’ve worked pretty hard during my life, but there ain’t no denying the fact that I’ve stumbled through a lot
Owen and I cranking up Stevens Canyon
of right doors.


Last week as a dozen teammates and myself pedaled around Mt. Rainier, which gave me a lot of time to ponder life and the luck I’ve had.  My most significant lucky streak has been with my family.  I was born into a top notch family, I met and married an awesome chick – no regrets no complaints - and, best of all, I have these two kids who, and I might be slightly biased here, are the two most wonderful children on the planet – despite the daily headaches they give me.

I was also lucky enough to be born extremely healthy.  In two weeks I’ll be forty eight, but I feel twenty four.  I’ve never had any health issues – major or minor – I eat whenever and whatever I want and never gain a pound, my eyes are 20/20, and my hair is still mostly on top of my head and not in my ears or nose.  The fact that I can get on a bike and ride hard for one hundred and fifty miles up and over three major passes without any special training, diet or suffering leaves me feeling very lucky.

The third aspect of luck that I try not to take for granted is my friendships.  I’m not a super gregarious guy, I’m not everybody’s good buddy, but I have a radar for good people; I have a natural knack for surrounding myself with people of the highest caliber.  There are probably two dozen bike teams here in the Seattle area, but somehow – we can call it luck – I managed to get on one of the best, if not the best.  When I go to races I’m not jealous or envious of any other team, because I’m on the coolest team there – not to mention the fact that we have the most kick ass kits.

We had a dozen guys riding one hundred and fifty hard fought miles together, not everything went as planned, but to my knowledge not a mean or angry word was said.  I love that.  I love going out and throwing down hard with good people.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gravel Century (Almost)


Being a bad boy - sans helmet
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a cool bar in Georgetown drinking Manny’s with my buddy Chris when he started talking about how gravel centuries are becoming increasingly popular.  A spark was lit: an off-road century is just what I needed in preparation for Leadville.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Ironhorse State Park is a converted Railroad grade that runs from North Bend (20 miles east of Seattle) to the Columbia River.  I figured that I could do an out and back on the trail from our cabin at Snoqualmie Pass: the turn-around would be fairly close to Ellensburg.  Basically it would be fifty miles down and fifty miles back up.

I left the cabin at 8:30 on Saturday morning.  Instead of turning right and riding up to the JWPT trailhead at Hayak I made a last minute decision to turn left and weave my way to Lake Kachees via old logging roads.  The first four miles were up a vicious grade, but I was rewarded with an equal amount of screaming fire road descent.  I hit thirty seven miles per hour and decided that it would be wise to apply a little brake: no one had any idea where I was and it could be days before anyone came by.  It’s prudent to be a little cautious when you’re all by your lonesome.

I hit the trail at the Stampede Pass road and I rolled quickly down to Easton where I made note of the water tap.  Thirteen miles on I hit Cle Elum, where Smokey’s BBQ was just opening up at the newly renovated Railroad Depot.  I stopped in for a Coke; it was too early for lunch but I made a date with the owner to get some pulled pork on my way back.

By reading the mileage signs I figured that I’d be turning around at the Thorpe Trailhead, but at mile 47.7 I hit a deep dark tunnel.  Outside the tunnel was a little box into which trail users are supposed to insert signed wavers absolving the State from any liability.  I didn’t bother to
sign.  My little flashlight barely dented the absolute darkness inside that dang tunnel, so after about a hundred yards I said screw it and turned around (I’ll have to head back sometime soon with a better light).

I had prepared for a hot, sunny day in Central Washington, but instead I rode under gray/black threatening skies.  A few miles after my turnaround I ran into a trio of young guys loaded with overnight gear; they said that they’d come from North Bend the day before.  One dude was on what appeared to be his little sister’s Costco bike and another guy had loaded his backpack into one of those seat stay mounted child seats.  Hat’s off to ‘em, they were on an adventure much like some of the poorly equipped hair brained crap that I pulled as a teenager back in Iowa.

I could smell the thunderstorm as I rolled into Cle Elum, and all hell broke loose just as I parked my bike in front of Smokey’s.  I sat underneath the eaves of the train depot and ate my pulled pork, beans and cornbread watching the storm rage and then blow itself out.  I was a little worried about my gut-buster meal – was it going to fuel me as l climbed the final thirty miles or was I going to puking beside the trail.  Only one way to find out.

The gut buster that wasn't
Riding after the storm was nice as it was cool and the rain had dampened the trail enough to keep the dust down.  My legs and stomach were both feeling good but my ass had had enough.  My mountain bike position is a lot tighter than what I have on my road bike, which causes me to sit a lot further back on the saddle, thus putting more weight on muscle (i.e. butt) and less on skeleton.  By mile seventy my butt was bruised fairly deeply and I was entering into a misery situation.

I don’t mind suffering, but I don’t like misery.  Suffering is part of the game, if you want to do something big, something cool you have to work, maybe even suffer a bit, for it, but misery - that’s just miserable.  I ended up riding much of the final ten miles standing up.  I rode up to the Summit West Ski Area just to add a few miles to the ride as I’d turned around a bit early.  I stopped at the summit store to get an Orange Fanta and then headed to the cabin.  I arrived with ninety seven miles on the odometer, a more pedantic guy would have rode in circles for three miles, but me, I parked my bike, went inside, laid down and watched the Outlaw Josey Wales.  I’d had enough.